The Howard Payne Yellow Jackets are picked to finish tied for eighth place out of 12 teams in the American Southwest Conference baseball race, according to the preseason coaches and media poll released earlier this week. The top eight seeds will advance to ASC championship tournament action in May.
The Yellow Jackets (21-19, 9-15) and Louisiana College (20-14, 9-14) both garnered 155 points in the poll.
Concordia (29-18, 18-6), with 290 points and 17 first-place votes, has been picked to win the ASC title followed by UT-Dallas (32-17, 17-7) with 273 points and seven first-place votes, Sul Ross (23-19, 17-7) with 221 points and a first-place vote, East Texas Baptist (21-21, 11-13) with 207 points, Hardin-Simmons (16-27, 12-12) with 194 points, Ozarks (20-20, 14-10) with 172 points, LeTourneau (23-19, 13-11) with 151 points, HPU and Louisiana College, then McMurry (13-25, 7-17) with 83 points, Belhaven (12-27, 7-16) with 77 points and Mary Hardin-Baylor (10-29, 6-18) with 56 points.
UT-Tyler (40-18, 15-9), the 2018 national champion, is moving up to Division II and therefore is ineligible for the postseason, as is Belhaven, which is still a provisional Division III program.
The ASC also issued its Players to Watch list, which included HPU senior outfielder Noah Payne and junior pitcher Xavier Haines. Payne batted .280 last season with a home run and 15 RBIs in 37 games, while Haines has transferred back to HPU after spending last season at Independence Community College in Kansas.
The Yellow Jackets open the season at 11 p.m. Friday at Hawaii Pacific University in Waipahu, Hawaii, followed by doubleheaders at Hawaii Pacific Saturday and Sunday. HPU’s home opener falls Feb. 16 with a non-conference doubleheader against ASC rival McMurry. League play begins Feb. 22-23 with a three-game set at Louisiana College.